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Writing to Awaken is an inspirational investigation of the self through expressive writing, guiding you along the path of awakening through radical truth-telling and self-inquiry. With targeted and revelatory questions, you’ll be prompted to explore your own personal narrative—to write honestly about your deepest wounds, greatest challenges, hidden gifts, yearnings, and opportunities for growth—in order to discover a deeply authentic understanding of yourself and move toward a more liberated, truthful life.
We each have our own story, a personal myth constructed from the content life presents us: we connect dots to shape the narrative, devise plotlines from circumstance, change characters, fashion conflicts, and adjust structure, settings, and themes as our lives unfold. But so often, over time, we come to believe that we are our story, identifying so strongly with the tales we’ve told ourselves and others that we cling to them for our very existence—even when they don’t quite fit. The realization that there’s a discrepancy between the narrative you’ve crafted and your authentic self can be disconcerting at first, but the exploration of that gap is a doorway to personal freedom, and this book will lead you through it.
The writing exercises in this guide, one for nearly every week of the year, ask you to tell the whole truth about your experience. In doing so, you’ll come to realize that once you engage in this radical truth-telling, expressing yourself with complete honesty, your story changes; and when your story changes, your life is transformed. Rather than sticking with your illusive and tricky “Story of Me,” you’ll be prompted to go even deeper, piercing your personal myth and illuminating aspects of psyche and spirit that give way to profound moments of understanding and personal healing.
This is not a how-to book for writers; it’s an invitation on a journey of self-discovery—a guide to facing yourself without flinching, accepting yourself as you are, surrendering to what is, and daring to question and transform what isn’t true. With Writing to Awaken, you’ll learn how to break free from the trance of mistaken identity and discover your essential, authentic self.
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Mark Matousek is author of two award-winning memoirs, Sex Death Enlightenment (an international bestseller) and The Boy He Left Behind (a Los Angeles Times Discovery Book), as well as When You’re Falling, Dive and Ethical Wisdom. He collaborated with Sogyal Rinpoche on The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Andrew Harvey on Dialogues with a Modern Mystic, and Ram Dass on Still Here. Matousek is a featured blogger for Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, and Contemplative Journal, and has contributed to numerous anthologies and publications, including The New Yorker, O, The Oprah Magazine (as a contributing editor), The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s BAZAAR, Yoga Journal, Details, The Saturday Evening Post, AARP, Tricycle, and more. A popular lecturer and writing teacher, he is on the faculty of the New York Open Center, the Esalen Institute, Hollyhock, and Schumacher College. Matousek is also creative director of V-Men (with Eve Ensler), an organization devoted to ending violence against women and girls. His workshops, classes, and mentoring have helped thousands of people around the world, focusing on personal awakening and creative excellence through self-inquiry and writing.
Foreword writer Joan Borysenko, PhD, is a pioneer in the integration of mind, body, and spirit. She is a licensed psychologist with a doctorate in cell biology from Harvard Medical School, and president of Mind-Body Health Sciences. A New York Times bestselling author of sixteen books and several meditation CDs, Borysenko synthesizes cutting-edge science with deep humanity.
“As a writer, I know from experience just how transformative the creative process can be, but Mark Matousek invites us to make that potential fully conscious. A great resource for anyone wishing to develop a holistic and healing approach to writing.”
—Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness
“Making sense of our lives through reflective writing is a research-established way of cultivating well-being in your life. As a scientist and clinician, I find Mark Matousek’s reflections and life-changing insights in this marvelous book to be filled with timeless wisdom and practical advice. Empowering you to integrate new understandings of the past into a liberating awareness of the present, the suggestions in this helpful volume enable you to free yourself to live the life you deserve. Let Mark be your guide in this transformative book as you journey to the depths of your mind to nurture a new way of being with yourself and with others.”
—Daniel J. Siegel, MD, clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, executive director at Mindsight Institute, and New York Times bestselling author of Min
“In Writing to Awaken, Mark Matousek invites you onto a direct path of self-inquiry and spiritual realization. Mark is a masterful and loving guide: his wisdom teachings and brilliantly conceived questions will enable you to dissolve the coverings and open to life-changing truth. You don’t need skill in writing to partake; all that’s required is the longing to awaken your heart.”
—Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge
“In Writing to Awaken, Mark Matousek is a wise and caring guide who, like the early Eastern masters, offers insights as tools to free and build your life with. Filled with powerful stories and revealing exercises, this book opens the craft of writing as a way to dive into the art of self-reflection. It will restore meaning and change your life.”
—Mark Nepo, author of The One Life We’re Given and The Way Under the Way
“Writing to Awaken begins with reminding readers how changing our stories transforms our lives, then leads us on a journey beginning with the self and rippling out to encompass the essence of our stories as a radical act of truth-telling. He unfolds narratives, approaches, and a rich collection of writing prompts that help us release or revise the stories that separate us from ourselves, and dwell in the stories of who we truly are. This valuable exploration helps readers become writers of their own lives, cultivating the practice, imagination, and engagement needed to awaken with compassion and courage.”
—Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, 2009–2013 Poet Laureate of Kansas, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College
“Writing to Awaken pulls no punches. Giving you writing prompts to serve as your scalpel, and with profound psychological and spiritual wisdom to help you step-by-step along the way, Mark Matousek invites you to dive into the depths of your life experience to explore the fundamental question: Who am I? This book is a solid road map for the soul, and it puts you squarely in the driver’s seat.”
—Roger Housden, speaker, writing guide, and author of twenty-three books, including the best-selling Ten Poems to Change Your Life and Dropping the Struggle
“Mark Matousek unveils the path of writing as revelation. This is a beautiful book, one that will inspire writers, and really all of us, to take the pen in hand and look deeply into the human heart and into the world.”
—Roshi Joan Halifax, abbot at Upaya Zen Center
“Writing to Awaken is a brilliant, practical application of expressive writing research. In his characteristically frank, accessible, and lucid language, Mark Matousek guides readers through four passages of self-exploration, providing dozens of writing prompts and examples to help readers dive deeper into their own self-discovery. Always gentle and mindfully compassionate, Matousek makes a significant contribution to the literature of writing to heal. I strongly recommend this book for those who desire to learn about the power of language to change and to discover a new, authentic way of living.”
—John F. Evans, executive director of Wellness & Writing Connections, author of Wellness & Writing Connections, and coauthor with James W. Pennebaker of Expressive Writing
“One of Mark Matousek’s great gifts to the expressive writing literature is his sensitivity to the nuances of life stories. In particular, his approach to shadow material—those dark canyons within that we’re often reluctant to bring to light—is an awakening that offers healing to many readers and writers.”
—Kathleen Adams, LPC, director of the Center for Journal Therapy, author of Journal to the Self, and coauthor with Deborah Ross of Your Brain on Ink
“Mark Matousek’s writing instruction is transformative. His classes will change the ways in which you examine your life, and how you think about yourself as a writer. He approaches your work with a deep sense of empathy, allowing him to help you tell your story in your voice. Mark’s insight, imagination, and precise instruction will push your writing in incredible directions, both creatively and technically. Mark not only recognized that I had the makings of a book, but his mentorship at every step of the process empowered me to bring the project to fruition. No matter what stage of the process you are at, time spent with Mark will yield extraordinary results.”
—Libuse Binder, author of Ten Ways to Change the World in Your Twenties
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